October: Family History Month

Did you know all of October is Family History Month? As the weather turns colder, finding indoor activities is essential. Chilly autumn days are excellent for learning about your family history. Asking questions is one of the best ways to learn about your family. Visit or call your parents, grandparents, great grandparents, or other elder family members. Remember either record or have a pen and paper ready to take lots of notes.

Do you need help with the type of questions to ask? Go beyond simple dates and locations. Ask about family stories too. Check out the following areas for inspiration for finding out about your family.


  • How did you meet?
  • How did Grandpa (or other elder relatives) purpose?
  • What was your maiden name?
  • Do you know how your parents or grandparents first met?
  • What was your mother’s maiden name for both sides of your family?
  • Is there any story surrounding your proposal?
  • What was your wedding day like?
  • Did you have a big wedding?
  • Where did you get married?


  • How many brothers and sisters did, or do you have?
  • Tell me about them.
  • How many aunts and uncles?
  • If you had lots of cousins, did you stay in touch with them?
  • Did you have family reunions?
  • What was your family gathers like?


  • What is your favorite childhood memory?
  • Describe an average day from your childhood.
  • Where were you born?
  • Where did you grow up?
  • Did you move around a lot or stay in one location?
  • Do you know where your parents grew up?


  • Where did you attend grade school? Junior high? High school?
  • Did you like school?
  • Did you attend college, vocational, or a trade school?
  • What was your favorite subject in school?


  • What was your religious upbringing?
  • Did you go to church regularly?
  • Where did you go to church?


  • What was your first job?
  • Do you remember how much you made an hour?
  • How many different jobs did you have over the years?
  • What was your favorite one?
  • What was your parents’ occupation?


  • Did you serve in the military?
  • What branch?
  • How long did you serve?
  • Were you ever in a war zone or other conflict?
  • Where did you attend boot camp?
  • Were you drafted?
  • Do you know any other family members who served in the military?
  • Describe a typical day for you in the military.

The more questions you ask, the better understanding you will have of your family history. Enjoy your time with older relatives. Their knowledge will be lost once they are gone.

Ancestor Appreciation Day

Today, September 27th is the unofficial holiday of Ancestor Appreciation Day. How much information do you know about your mother or father’s ancestors? Do you know where your family originated? Are you curious about the stories passed down over the years? Ancestor Appreciation Day is about honoring those who came before you. Celebrating and learning about your heritage is a great way to celebrate the day.

Hang Up Photographs

Do you have older photos of your grandparents or great grandparents? Are they in a drawer or on the computer? Find a space to hang up pictures of your ancestors.

Start a Family Tree

Make a commitment to yourself to learn more about your family. Starting a family tree is the perfect place to begin. Many websites will allow you to start a tree for free. If you do not want to use a website, go old school. Grab some poster boards and markers.

  • Always begin with the information that you already know to be factual.
  • Add photos.
  • Include stories about your family.
  • Backup your findings with proven resources.

Creating a family tree is a beautiful way to learn about your heritage. Once you get started, you may be surprised where the information takes you. Enjoy the journey.

Flossie Haynes working on hospital rotation in Detroit around 1917.

Visit an Elderly Relative

Older relatives are a wealth of information. Visting a relative for an afternoon may result in lots of information about your family. Take a notebook along or a recorder to save the stories.


Believe it or not, food is a great way to connect to your heritage. Consider making a favorite family dish. If you do not have a family recipe, try a dish associated with your culture. Trying something new is an exciting way to share your heritage with your family or friends.

Finding small ways to honor your ancestors is perfect for celebrating Ancestor Appreciation Day.

Genealogy Series: Tips for Researching Your Family Tree

Researching your family tree is a fun, exciting hobby that can instantly turn into an addiction. As you begin your search, the photos, stories and historical data become threads. When woven together, you will discover the very fabric of your roots. So, how do you begin? Well, you may not like the answer: you simply just need to start.

Tips for Researching Your Family Tree

1. Get Organized

Researching requires note-taking and gathering data. Setting up a small space to gather your research is one of the best ways of staying organized.

  • File cabinet
  • Folders and binders
  • Plastic holders to keep clippings and photos safe
  • Computer, printer and the Internet
  • Printing paper
  • USB’s or backup discs

Depending on your organization preferences, you may also want to purchase colored pens, markers, and highlighters.

2. Just Start

After gathering your basic organization materials, just start. Yes, there’s the simple advice again. Start with the information you already know about your family history. Begin by building your family tree online or simply start making notes. Gather any relatable materials already in your possession.

  • Family photographs
  • Newspaper clippings
  • Birth certificates
  • Family Bible
  • Letters
  • Invites, thank you notes, or other saved material
  • Diaries or journals

The smallest piece of information may provide larger search details in the future.

3. Start Asking Questions

Asking questions prior to loved ones passing is crucial for gathering firsthand information. Begin by asking parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles about your family history.

  • Who? Ask who your ancestors are?
  • Where? Ask where did they originate? Where did they live?
  • When? Ask for any dates that may help with your search.
  • How? Ask how your ancestors came to live in a specific area?

Go beyond asking about the facts, ask about the memories. Writing out short stories about your ancestors is a great addition to your family tree.

4. Use the Internet

Using proper documentation techniques, the Internet can be a wonderful resource tool. Some sites are only available with payment. Others are free to browse. Backing up the sources should be part of the search to verify the data is correct.

5. Join Local Genealogical and Historical Societies

Contact your local genealogical and historical society for help. Many organizations will help you without charge. Over time, you may want to join the organization to learn about other researching techniques. Many societies have weekly or monthly meetings. Others go on trips to local cemeteries or other historical sites. One of the greatest aspects about joining a genealogical group is each member understands your quest for knowledge. Often a fellow genealogy buff will know how to research a subject area, helping you further your research.

Genealogy research is both fun and frustrating. However, over time the journey may bring you closer to your family roots.


Genealogy Series: Ideas for Writing Your Personal History

Writing your personal history is a great addition to your genealogy research. Your personal story will intertwine with the rest of your family’s history. As your own author, the subject matter is endless. If you need ideas for writing your personal history, consider the following areas for inspiration.


  • Are you named after someone in your family? Who? Why?
  • Do you know the meaning or story behind your name?
  • Did you name any of your children after a family member? Who? Why?
  • Do you have a nickname?
  • How did you get the nickname?


  • When and where were you born?
  • Is there a story about your birth?
  • When and where were your children born?
  • Share your experience about their birth.

Significant Other

  • What is your current relationship status?
  • Are you married?
  • How did you meet your partner?
  • Describe your first date.
  • Describe your wedding.
  • What is your favorite moment with your significant other?


  • Where were your parent born?
  • How did they meet?
  • Favorite memory of your parents from your childhood?
  • What did your parents teach you?
  • Write any other information you would like to share about your parents.
  • Describe yourself as a parent? (or a pet parent)


  • Describe your childhood home? Did you move around a lot? Did you grow up in the city or country?
  • Do you have siblings? How many?
  • Are you close to your siblings?
  • What was your favorite activity as a child?
  • Who were your childhood friends? Do you still keep in touch?
  • Did you like school?
  • Describe your holidays as a child.
  • What family traditions do you still carry on with your own family?
  • Describe your children at this moment in time.

Extended Family

  • Write about your grandparents include names, dates, and other important information.
  • Write about your aunts and uncles. Did you have a favorite?
  • Write about your cousins and other family members.
  • Were there people in your life that you considered family who was not related?
  • Did you spend a lot of time with your extended family?
  • Do your children spend time with extended family?

Every piece of information provides insight into your life. Remember when writing to keep your personal and families’ information private. Always be careful about publishing information online. Keep a journal. Using lined notebook paper is an easy way to continuously add information photos and other material to a 3-ring binder. Do not forget to have fun when writing your personal history.


6 Ways to Celebrate Family History Month

Time to celebrate your family roots, October is Family History Month. The month is perfect for exploring your family’s personal history. As a new researcher or an avid family historian, focusing on your family history may result in a fun surprise.

Ways to Celebrate Family History Month

Consider the following ideas to help you celebrate Family History Month. The activities may bring knowledge and a fun-filled afternoon.

1. Create a Family Tree

Creating a family tree is a perfect way to celebrate Family History Month. Branching out over many generations, a family tree shows the uniqueness of your origin. As you begin your tree, the option for saving the material depends on you. Websites and computer programs are popular choices. But, you can also go “old school”. Using poster boards, markers, highlighters, labels, and a little creativity, personalizes the family tree.

2. Visit Relatives

Older relatives often have first-hand experience to the family history. Grab a notebook or recording device. Spend an afternoon discussing your family’s roots. The information may surprise you. As an added bonus, you get to enjoy your grandparents, great aunts or other older relatives’ time.

3. Go Social

If you are a user a Facebook, create a group for your research. Invite family members to share stories or research information. A group effort may bring larger amounts of data to help in creating the family tree. Keeping your family history private, Facebook settings allow groups to be closed or secret. As a moderator, you will be able to pick who can and cannot be part of your group.

4. Research Your Geographical Area of Origin

When you begin putting your family history together, research the areas. Use the Internet to discover local culture, town history, and even the weather. The information provides a general overview of daily life. If you are able, visit the location. Take photos of landmarks, cemetery sites, old buildings, or other related scenery.

5. Celebrate the Culture

Learning the different countries or areas of your family origin is a chance to celebrate the culture.

  • Fairs and Festival: Many communities celebrate early settlers by sponsoring large fairs or festivals. Take the time to attend. Most community events are free or charge minimal costs which are perfect for a family adventure.
  • Try a New Recipe: A simple way to celebrate your culture is food. Go online to research different food from your country of origin. Try a new recipe. Or if you are not an expert in the kitchen, find a restaurant that serves your country’s cuisine.
  • Join a Group: Local genealogical societies or other community groups often sponsor field trips, workshops, or conferences. Offering a wide range of subject manner, you may be able to learn about early settlers, culture, and other historical dates.

6. Your History

When most people think of family history, past generations is generally the first thought. Family history is your personal story too.

  • Family Scrapbook: Create a scrapbook about you and your family. Include photos of your first date, wedding, baby pictures, and other memories. The scrapbook may eventually become a family treasure.
  • Family Journal: Spiral notebooks, Composition books, or a leather-bound journal are a great way to preserve your family’s history. Take time to write in the journal. Plan writing sessions for once a day or week. Filling up the pages of small daily activities may be a great reminder of days gone past.
  • Video Blog: If you are tech-savvy, create video blogs of your family’s daily routines or special occasions.

Families come in all varieties from every corner of the globe. Celebrating Family History Month is a great way to learn about your own roots. Take time to celebrate life’s little moments. In the future, the little moments may be a treasured memory.

Genealogy Series: Identifying Old Photographs

Did you recently find a box of old family photos? When working on your family tree, photographs offer a vital piece of information. A photograph can show you a glimpse into your family’s history.  Identifying the people or location may require a lot a research and a little luck.

Best Ways to Identify Old Photographs

When dealing with old family photographs, start with organization. Store your valuable pictures in photo boxes, photo albums or other protectable containers. If you decide to use albums, consider the 3 ring binder types. The photo binders allow you to protect photos and insert notepaper with details of your photo. Keeping all your information in one location will help in your future genealogy research.

1. Go with What You Know

If you are lucky, some of the photographs may have names written on the back. Or you will be able to identify your family members simply on sight. When using the 3 ring binder method, you can make notes of the known family members. Numbering the photos and logging the information on to your computer is another great option for keeping track.  

2. Ask Family Members

Older family members are a key resource. Spending the afternoon with your parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles may provide you with valuable information on your photos. At the same time, you may learn more personal stories about the people in the photograph.

3. Analyze the Photograph

Your actual photograph may hold numerous clues to help you identify the person in the photo.

·        The Photographer: Many older photographs were printed with the photographer’s name and the place of business stamped on the front. Researching the photographer and the location enables you to narrow down your search.

·        Clothing Style: Check your potential family member’s appearance. The type of clothing, hairstyle, jewelry, dolls, or other items may hold valuable clues. Learning about different fashion trends will help you in narrowing down the year and location of the photograph.

·        Background: Along with appearance, noticing the background of the photograph is another way to find clues. Helping you narrow down the year, studio photos may have props or furniture that can be dated.  Analyzing the background of outdoor photographs or candid photos may allow you to identify a building, a home, landscape, or other information.

4. Type of Photograph

Daguerreotype to the digital era, the landscape of photography is ever changing. The type of photograph may help you identify or narrow down the year. Early photographs are specific to the time period. For example, a daguerreotype was first introduced in 1839 to the general public. The tintype was popular after 1860. Knowing the different eras of photography will help you narrow down the year.

5. Online Databases

Using online databases or social platforms can help you narrow your search, gain insight and meet new people who are interested in exploring family history. Many groups on social websites focus on specific locations. Generally, the members are friendly, knowledgeable resources who are more than happy to help you learn about your photo or answer questions about research. Regardless of the type, keep a record of your resources. Some information may not be as reliable or accurate. But later, you may come across another valuable resource to back up your assumptions.


Learning about your family history is a fun way to spend your leisure time. Photographs are a valuable clue.  Identifying the photographs may take research and persistence. But the reward is unmeasurable.

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